A long shutdown could leave the Fed without critical data

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday he's worried policymakers won't have a complete picture...

Posted: Jan. 11, 2019 1:14 AM
Updated: Jan. 11, 2019 1:14 AM

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday he's worried policymakers won't have a complete picture of the US economy if the partial government shutdown persists.

The US Commerce Department, which publishes reports the Fed uses to gauge the health of the economy, is among the agencies swept up in the third week of the shutdown.

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"We would have a less clear picture of the economy, if it would go on for much longer," Powell said in remarks at the Economic Club of Washington.

Powell said he expects the impact of a longer government shutdown to be seen "clearly" in the economic data.

"A longer shutdown is something we haven't had," he said. "I do think that would show up in the data pretty clearly."

A Fed spokesman told CNN this week that staffers will continue to draw from public and private data to guide policymakers ahead of upcoming rate-setting meetings.

"While having the full complement of government data available would be beneficial, the Federal Reserve's staff assessment of economic conditions takes into account a wide range of information from government and private-sector sources, as well as readings on financial and international developments, and staff continue to provide a detailed economic picture for policymakers," the spokesman said.

Powell reiterated that he intends to proceed with a data-driven approach to rate-setting over the coming year. The Fed is working to guide the American economy into a soft landing amid a slowing global economy and market uncertainty, much of it coming from Washington.

"We're actually in a good place," Powell said. "We have the ability to be patient and watch patiently and carefully as we see the economy evolve."

When asked if the Fed plans to raise rates at its next meeting later this month, Powell flatly replied, "There is no such plan."

"You should anticipate we will be watching and waiting," he hastened quickly, which drew laughter by the audience.

The chairman, who has been under fire from President Donald Trump over previous rate increases, said he has yet to receive an invitation by the White House for a meeting.

Powell noted that Fed chairs have historically met with sitting presidents, although added those meetings tend to be "rare."

He said he's not aware of any Fed chair ever turning down an invitation to meet with the President.

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